Short Takes: 09/06

Keeping our pets safe during disasters; clinical trials; a license for breeders

When to Evacuate Your Pets?

Cat owners ordered to evacuate in advance of a potential disaster face some tough decisions:

Where will the cat and I stay? (Red Cross shelters generally dont allow pets.)

Do I care enough to stay behind with my cat? (An American Kennel Club survey, in the wake of 2005s Hurricane Katrina, found most pet owners planning to defy evacuation orders if they could not take their pets. Nearly two-thirds said they have pet-evacuation plans in place.)

Will the cat survive if left behind? Stories about cats living through earthquakes and killer hurricanes may be the exception, not the rule. Here is one such exception:

A CatWatch reader in Metairie, Louisiana, filled her car with neighbors and headed north just minutes before Katrina hit. Expecting to return within a week, she left Percy in a fourth-floor apartment with several days food and water.

Six weeks later and guilt-ridden, she broke through a roadblock (parts of Metairie were still off-limits) and climbed the stairs of the ruined apartment house. Percy was fine (living off rainwater and rodents), although it took some coaxing to get him to come out from under the bed.

“Next time Ill take Percy,” said the CatWatch reader, who now lives in Florida. “Hes a survivor, but why push his luck?”

The American Humane Association offers disaster-planning help at this website:


Finding the Right Clinical Trial

Clinical trials offer a chance to try the latest – albeit experimental – medical treatments at little or no cost to the patients.

A new website connects veterinarians to in-progress clinical trials for cats, dogs and other animal patients. But theres no reason why cat owners cant look for clinical trials and then ask their vets for a referral. For example, a quick peek at the site turns up two chemotherapy trials that need cats with mammary adenocarcinoma. One trial is testing the effectiveness of the chemotherapeutic drug antracycline, and another compares mitoxantrone and doxorubicin.

While some trials require cat owners to live within driving distance of the clinic where the tests are being carried out, others are conducted through participating veterinarians around the country.


License to Breed

Spaying and neutering remain the very best ways to decrease the burgeoning population of homeless cats. Despite pleas from veterinarians and others concerned about the problem, too many owners fail to have these procedures performed. States and communities have tried various measures over the years to encourage people to spay or neuter their cats, with varying success. When Rhode Island became the first state in the country to penalize owners of intact cats, Ocean State lawmakers drafted a sea of regulations for cat breeders.

They also tacked a 50-cent surcharge on dog licenses to help support spay-neuter clinics for cats and added an exemption for farmers, who presumably need to keep those barn cats intact and producing more rat catchers.

Rhode Islands Permit Program for Cats law slaps $75-a-month fines on owners of cats that have not been spayed or neutered – and sets up two kinds of permits and one doctors excuse: Licensed cat breeders pay $100 a year and have to abide by strict rules (kittens must be eight weeks of age and have their shots before being sold, and breeders must accept “returns” for any reason). Owners of non-breeding, intact cats pay $100 a year and promise that their pets wont get pregnant. If an accident happens, they are charged another $100 for a breeders license.

Owners of cats too old or ill to breed can get a letter from a veterinarian to show the animal-control officer. Fees from the breeders license and intact-cat permits are pooled with dog license surcharges to run spay-neuter programs for low-income cat owners.

If all the new rules tempt owners to give Puss the boot, that costs something, too: Now theres a $250 fine for abandoning a cat in Rhode Island.